“Iraq is sitting atop a volcano,” says a school teacher in Haditha. “The Americans are aggravating people here, trying to get a reaction. Everyone in this province is against them now!”
Most Iraqis I speak with nowadays are seething with rage toward the occupiers of their country. With their mosques being raided, damaged or destroyed on what has become a nearly daily basis, they have had enough.
As if the unremitting stream of horrendous photographs documenting the widespread torture of Iraqis within Abu Ghraib prison (among other detention facilities throughout Iraq) is not enough, the recent wedding party massacre has brought the fury to an entirely new level.
The continuing cultural insensitivity and unwillingness to take responsibility for the slaughter by the U.S. military is not helping decrease the rage Iraqis feel about the incident.
While Arabic media show footage of the mangled bodies of the 25 women and children killed by U.S. helicopters, Marine General James Mattis in Fallujah responded, “Ten miles from Syrian border and 80 miles from nearest city and a wedding party? Don’t be naïve. Plus they had 30 males of military age with them. How many people go to the middle of the desert to have a wedding party?”
Someone should inform General Mattis that most of Iraq just happens to be located in a desert, and that celebrations of all kinds in the desert are not uncommon here.
On the banks of the Euphrates River inside a humble home in Haditha, Mr. Tahrir, a manager of one of the local schools, is unable to contain his anger while discussing the countless atrocities committed by the U.S. and British militaries of late.
“So a few soldiers get court-martialed for abusing Iraqis. They get a fair trial, then maybe a year in jail. Is this fair? Iraqi civil rights lawyers, human rights organizations, and released detainees who were tortured werent even allowed inside of the show trial!”
Mr. Tahrir, like all of the other men and women I am drinking tea with, is unable to accept the incongruity of justice as applied to soldiers vs. detained Iraqis. Most detained Iraqis have never been charged with anything, have no access to a lawyer or their families, no phone calls, and as we can see every day now, are being treated horrendously.
How would people in the U.S. react if shown pictures of Americans imprisoned by a foreign military that showed detainees forced to simulate degrading sex acts, covered in feces, ridden like animals, handcuffed to their beds with underwear on their heads or attacked by guard dogs?
The signs of continued violent resistance to the occupation are obvious even as one drives out of the quiet town of Haditha, beautifully set amidst palm trees, green fields of vegetable crops and the mighty Euphrates flowing past. For the road just outside of the city has huge craters along the sides, blasted by Improvised Explosive Devices detonated while U.S. convoys passed.
Iraqis arent the only people suffering. Just in the last two days, five more U.S. soldiers have been killed, and at least twice that number wounded. Heavy fighting rages throughout southern Iraq, which of course is claiming even more civilian casualties than fighters on either side.
Driving back to Baghdad one finds the usual delays from military convoys and checkpoints. Iraqis are not getting used to being delayed by the foreign militaries in their country, and cars honk and tempers rise with each passing minute. In Baghdad, according to General Kimmitt, currently 76 roads are blocked for “security reasons.” Snarled traffic in the capital is a daily fact of life, with people sitting in their cars, their anger rising with the 100 degree temperatures.
West of Fallujah on the main highway, while racing toward Baghdad alongside the setting sun, countless military vehicles sit sporadically along the sides of the road.
We pass a few small cemeteries, which oddly enough have Humvees and soldiers sitting beside them. Not good PR with the Iraqis.
Even though the military claims that an “attacker fired on the patrol from a cemetery” north of Baghdad in Miqdadiya recently, most Iraqis are unaware of this; they only see Humvees parked atop the bodies of their dead, Humvees from the same military that is damaging and raiding mosques in Baghdad and southern Iraq, Humvees from the same military that just slaughtered 40 people at a wedding celebration.
Shortly after passing these, Fallujah is on our right along with the token U.S. checkpoint on the main street that enters the city from the highway. While members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps actually operate the checkpoint, a few Humvees are parked off to the side under camouflage netting, discreetly incognito.
The checkpoint maintains the U.S. military illusion of control over the one truly liberated city in occupied Iraq, as their patrols no longer enter inside.
Recently Mr. Bush said, “And I believe the Iraqi people don’t want to be dominated by anybody. They want the United States to be a friend, but the United States to not dominate.”
His quote reminds me of something Mr. Tahrir told me earlier in Haditha while speaking of the U.S. occupation of his country. “They promised prosperity, yet they have destroyed everything. They said theyd bring real freedom, but we see our people in prison, tortured, looted and homes raided.”
Tassin Awad, sitting nearby, nodded in agreement and added, “I would like to see Mr. Bush and tell him that Saddam is better than he is.”